Skip to main content

Danielle Smith reflects on pensions, resources and relations with Ottawa after year in the national spotlight


2023 was a year where Alberta often found itself in the national spotlight, as the premier squared off with Ottawa over the province’s rights and resources.

Following a United Conservative Party election win in the spring, Premier Danielle Smith made headlines throughout the year as the province’s natural resource policy and pensions became a national debate.

Within the province, health care remained a key issue for many Albertans with a major system shake-up looming.

Smith sat down with CTV News Calgary’s Tara Nelson to discuss the year that was in 2023.

Here are some of the key issues the premier touched on.


The premier recently attended the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, with the goal of sharing the province’s belief that Alberta can increase the production of oil and natural gas and reduce emissions.

At the conference, the federal government announced its framework to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by at least 75 per cent by the end of the decade, compared to 2012 emissions.

Smith, however, voiced her opposition to the government’s plan after the announcement calling it “dangerous and unconstitutional.

“The federal government should not be regulating our oil and natural gas industry,” Smith told CTV News.

“I think trying to suggest that somehow putting these kinds of regulations on top of us will not lead to chill in investment, we know it will.”

The premier contends it’s going to take more time to cut down on emissions, largely due to “technology and time.”

“A lot of the delay and being able to implement comes down to regulatory issues and it just it takes time to build things,” she said.

“I think that we can achieve these things, we can build out the electrical grid, we can have fueling stations, we can build out the hydrogen fueling station network, but we can't do it in two years. We can't even do it in six years. We probably can do it by 2050.

“That’s what I find frustrating and we have to continually inject reality into the conversation.”


Smith says she has tried to work collaboratively with Ottawa but has also been a vocal opponent of federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“I've been talking with my provincial counterparts, I've been talking with industry leads who've been trying to inject some measure of realism into the proposals that have been now consistently coming out over the past year, and they all tell me the same thing: that there is just no movement, there's no collaboration, and there's no interest in trying to find a reasonable solution,” the premier said.

“I think they should replace him because I think we need to have a fresh set of eyes and a fresh perspective in that department. We need somebody who's going to work with us in the spirit of cooperative federalism, and he's not it.”

The premier invoked Alberta’s sovereignty act in November to implement new measures in her fight against Ottawa’s clean electricity regulations.

At the time, she conceded the implementation of the act was mostly symbolic.

“With the federal government taking the approach that they are to creating a chilling effect in our environment, so we will build natural gas power plants if we have to be the generator of last resort to do it,” Smith said. “We will because that's what makes sense in our environment, we'll do best efforts on carbon capture, utilization and storage.”


Alberta’s health-care system is set to undergo a massive reorganization.

Smith announced changes to Alberta Health Services (AHS) reducing it to one of four new service delivery organizations, all reporting directly to the health minister. Six of the organization's top executives were also removed from their positions.

“I would say what I hoped to be running on in the next elections four years from now is that every person will have a family practitioner, whether it's a doctor or a nurse practitioner,”

Smith highlighted five targets the province is focusing on, including:

  • Nurse practitioners being able to set up their own practices;
  • People with mental health and addiction challenges receiving treatment in appropriate facilities;
  • Improving patient flow by getting patients in hospitals into continuing care;
  • Ambulances doing drop-and-go, rather than sitting and waiting to offload patients; and
  • Making sure every person gets their surgery within the medically recommended period of time.

“Those are the five things that we set out as targets from the beginning of when I first got elected,” Smith said. “We started making some good progress, but it stalled, so we needed to bring in some new management in a fresh perspective to be able to address those.”

Burnout is another challenge Alberta’s health care system is facing, she said.

“We spend a lot of money investing in the health-care workforce, and then we create an environment where people get burned out after a few years,” the premier said.

“We have to do a better job of retention, creating an environment where people want to come to work or feel supported, where when there's problems on the front line, they get addressed by managers as opposed to just get pushed up the scale with, you know, successive group of managers saying ‘no, no, no.’ We need to have an attitude of innovation and an attitude of ‘yes.’”


Alberta’s talk of potentially leaving the Canada Pension Plan and establishing its own provincial plan made national headlines.

A report commissioned by the Alberta government was released in the fall, outlining estimations of what assets the province would be owed if it left the federal pension plan.

“I think it was important for Albertans to understand we overpay into the Canada Pension. We always have,” Smith said.

“Those overpayments go into investments that have grown to a point where we are now entitled to $334 billion in that pension fund, based on the formula in the act. As a massive amount of over-contribution, it means that we would be able to pay our seniors more money, or we would be able to reduce contributions for those who are paying in.”

Since then, the government and opposition have been holding town halls, surveying Albertans on their thoughts about the plan.

However, a recent survey suggested many Albertans don’t want to leave the CPP.

“If people want to look at that and say, ‘I understand we're overpaying, we'll continue to overpay, we will send it to a CPP Investment Board that we have no oversight over.’ And I'm fine with that. If that's what Albertans tell me, then I'll honour that,” the premier said.

“But I think people need to know that this is a program that treats Albertans unfairly, and we would be able to reduce premiums and increase benefits (with an Alberta pension plan), and if they still want to stay in the plan, then that'll be the decision of Albertans.” Top Stories

Stay Connected